Crackle and Glaze

akak crackle spears 430x316 - Crackle and GlazeExploring technique is definitely one of the primary joys of working with polymer. Not only can the material do so many different things but within each technique, there are dozens if not hundreds of ways of applying it.

France’s Karine Barrera, like so many of us, has spent a fair amount of time exploring crackle techniques. This necklace, created for her mother, a painter, shows a slightly different variation of crackle along with a faux ceramic look. She is also working in a brighter array of colors than she normally does, taking inspiration from the more saturated colors she says her mother prefers. The exploration of all these elements resulted in a piece that, although presented in a balanced, symmetrical composition, has a lot of energy and intrigue to draw a viewer in.

To see Karine’s other work, which tends towards more muted colors and a tribal style, take a look at her Akak blog.


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Exploring Points

helene jeanclaude dots 430x291 - Exploring PointsLast week I had the very fortunate opportunity to spend a couple days chatting and exploring Los Angeles with Christi Friesen and one of my oldest polymer pals, Debbie Crothers. We definitely did more talking than anything else and one of the subjects that kept coming up was exploration. Exploration of a technique or of a design element in your work can reveal much about what you personally prefer to do in your work not just what the technique or element offers.

One great way to explore is to make a lot of elements using the same technique or the same design element. In this bold neckpiece by Hélène JeanClaude there are several variations on the dot. The dot as a colored accent, as repetition defining the structure of a visual pattern, and as negative space are joined together, linked by that same color of blue and the coppery brown. The curve of the shapes, as well as the colors and the dots themselves, create a cohesive whole of these three very different explorations of the way a dot can be used.

Hélène’s work often appears to be an exploration of a particular design element or perhaps she is simply not satisfied with an element being presented in just one way. Regardless, it presents a high level of sophistication and energy to her tribal-leaning aesthetic. You can explore the fruits of her explorations on her Flickr photostream and here on her blog.



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Variation on Triangles

Laura Orihuela triangles collar 430x283 - Variation on TrianglesAs with most weeks, my themes present themselves from the collection of images I set aside just for this blog. I collect them without a specific idea in mind, just grabbing things that I feel have something we can learn from. Right now, I have a lot of almost-triangle pieces. Straight triangles are the shapes most representative of strength. It is the strongest basic structural shape in nature and in man-made construction since the three sides support each other in an immovable way. But the straight sides are also severe in their simplicity, so in craft art, we see a lot of softening of the basic triangle. We’ll explore the way it is used in craft this week.

This first piece makes use of the various ways the surface of a soft triangle can be treated. The blogger and artisan, Laura Orihuela of Spain’s SuperCrafty blog created this last year. Using African influences for the cane pattern you see here, she applied it with her own design ideas and touches so you end up with a contemporary piece where the influence is subtle and refreshing.

And lucky us, she filmed the creation of these five beads so you can see her process. Find the video on her Super Crafty site as well as on her YouTube channel where you can find a slew of video tutorials on polymer and other materials.


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The Off-White Canvas


Let’s look at a little more off-white today. In general, off-whites on the warm side tend to look older or antiqued. This would be due to most whites aging warm, not cool. Hence the term ‘yellowing’ for aged white materials, because they take on a yellow cast which is a warm color.

This is something to keep in mind if you choose to create something in a warm off-white. There is a very good chance it will look aged which, if you are going for the look of faux bone, antique ivory or are pulling inspiration from an ancient society, is precisely what you want. This piece here is an example of using that warm off-white to give a piece an ancient look. In the piece seen here, Marina of Clay Carousel looks to be drawing on inspiration from the Mayan culture, with the art work titled “Mayan Princess”. She created a perfectly symmetrical but still energetic necklace with an off white canvas for all her accents and details. The dangles are what really make the design work with their strong directional downward lines and, of course, their actual swaying movement while on the wearer. Choosing the off-white background allows the lines and accents to take center stage as well as automatically giving us the impression of age even when we aren’t aware of what it has been titled.

The link on the image here goes to her second version of this necklace since the first, not surprisingly sold already in her LiveMaster shop but take a look at how she changed up the design. I think the way an artist alters a design can be so interesting and so telling of what they were after.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: If you don’t still have that cool and warm white clay from the last post’s challenge, create a couple more balls, one warm off-white and one cool. Then create the exact same design, one with the warm clay and one with the cool clay. Can you see how the color temperature changes the look of the piece? Cool whites look cleaner and brighter. Where would you want to use a cool off-white?


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Big and Bold Tribal

RThickbroomHere is the lovely Rebecca Thickbroom showing off her tribal-esque jewelry at the Eurosynergy gala event last week. She was sitting there signing copies of the Polymer Journeys book when I snapped this photo of her and this bold neck piece. Rebecca’s work, although it has a tribal look, is never quite as one would expect that look to be. She is not afraid to go big with her pieces and arranges elements in uncommonly complex compositions for ethnic influenced jewelry. She also uses bright saturated colors alongside muted and natural tones for interesting and eye-catching color contrast. The results are big and bold and quite enticing.

Rebecca was not the only one signing copies of Polymer Journeys last week. A number of attendees went about with their copies collecting signatures from the 25 artists that were at the event that are also in the book. I got two copies signed by all 25 artists which included the likes of Kathleen Dustin, Jeff Dever, Georg Dinkle, Maggie Maggio, Melanie Muir, Christi Friesen and more. One of those copies I donated to be auctioned off online by the IPCA. The auction is not yet up but I will share the link here when it’s announced so if you want to get your copy of this signed edition of Polymer Journeys, stay tuned!

In the meantime, getting a closer look at the variety of color and texture on this piece you see here along with other work by Rebecca on her website here.


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Taking it Tribal

These days, the  idea of something being modern but tribal, encircles a loose set of characteristics that can be applied to all kinds of materials, forms and techniques. The more prevalent characteristics would be earthy or naturally derived color palettes, repeated motifs with a hand drawn look, and rough, uneven edges or shapes. As we’ll see this week, that may not always be true, but if you wanted to create something more tribal or primitive looking, adding these types of elements would lean your piece in that direction.

I don’t know that I would have easily come up with a way to make mokume look tribal but even this technique, drawn from ancient Japanese metal work that demanded precision and fine skill, can be converted to reflect the idea of tribal by simply adding a few of the generalized characteristics just mentioned. Julie Picarello, known around the community for her extensive work with mokume style techniques she calls imprinting, did just this a few years ago with a line of tribal pendants as seen here.


This set of tribal pendants actually hits all the basic characteristics, but Julie’s line of tribal pendants include all kinds of color, texture and motifs, repeated and not. The uneven shapes, however, keep harkening back to the modern tribal aesthetic. Go ahead and take a look at what she’s done in this area on her website and Flickr pages, and don’t forget her book, Patterns in Polymer.


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What’s In a Name

Primative and tribal influences are quite popular and certainly catch my eye. But what actually drew me in to further investigate Christine Damm‘s Flickr page and then blog was her business name: Stories they Tell.

A simple but very compelling name. Who are “they”? What stories are there to be told? And then you look at her work and think, yes these  pieces, even though they are new and recently constructed look as if they have been or could be part of a story, reflecting upon something old or well-used; work influenced by the idea of objects as reflecting an individual’s history. Yep, that is a great business name.


What does your business name reflect? If you have been considering changing or starting a business, an Etsy page, a blog or something else that requires a name, consider how others will react to it. Will it draw them in or at least well describe what you sell or do?

You can peruse Christine’s Flickr page here or her blog here. And yes, most of that metal look is polymer clay.


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